Supreme Court Direction against handcuffing

Hand-cuffing in Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi Administration, (1980) 3 SCR 855 . It was held at page 872 (of SCR) as follows:-

“Hand-cuffing is prima facie inhuman and, therefore, unreasonable, is over-harsh and at the first flush, arbitrary. Absent fair procedure and objective monitoring, to inflict ‘irons’ is to resort to zoological strategies repugnant to Art. 21. Thus, we must critically examine the justification offered by the State for this mode of restrain. Surely, the competing claims of securing the prisoner from fleeing and protecting his personality from barbarity have to be harmonised. To prevent the escape of the under-trial is in public interest, reasonable, just and cannot, by itself, be castigated. But to bind a man hand and foot fetter his limbs with hoops of steel, shuffle him along in the streets and stand him for hours in the Courts is to torture him, defile his dignity, vulgarise society and foul the soul of our constitutional culture.”

In the same caste at pages 875-876 (of SCR) it was held as under:-

“Even in cases where, in extreme circumstances, hand-cuffs have to be put on the prisoner, the escorting authority must record contemporaneously the reasons for doing so. Otherwise, under Art. 21 the procedure will be unfair and bad in law. Nor will mere recording the reasons do, as that can be a mechanical process mindlessly made. The escorting officer, whenever he hand-cuffs a prisoner produced in Court, must show the reasons so recorded to the Presiding Judge and get his approval. Otherwise, there is no control over possible arbitrariness in applying hand-cuffs and fetters. The minions of the police establishment must make good their security recipes by getting judicial approval. And, once the Court directs that hand-cuffs shall be off no escorting authority can over rule judicial direction. This is implicit in Art. 21 which insists upon fairness, reason-ableness and justice in the very procedure which authorises stringent deprivation of life and liberty”.

The same principles are reiterated in Sunil Gupta v. State of M.P., (1990) 3 SCC 119 It was held as follows:-

“Coming to the case on hand, we are satisfied that the petitioners are educated persons and selflessly devoting their service to the public cause. They are not the persons who have got tendency to escape from the jail custody. In fact, petitioners 1 and 2 even refused to come out on bail, but chose to continue in prison for a public cause. The offence for which they were tried and convicted under Section 186 of Indian Penal Code is only a bailable offence. Even assuming that they obstructed public servants in discharge of their public functions during the ‘dharna’ or raised any slogan inside or outside the Court, that would not be sufficient cause to hand-cuff them. Further, there was no reason for hand-cuffing them while taking them to Court from jail on April 22, 1989. One judicial order by a competent Court, that person comes within the judicial custody of the Court. Therefore the taking of a person from a prison to the Court or back from Court to the prison by the escort party is only under the judicial orders of the Court. Therefore, even if extreme circumstances necessitate the escort party to bind the prisoners in fetters, the escort, party should record the reasons for doing so in writing and approve or disapprove the action of the escort party and issue necessary directions. It is most painful to note that the petitioners 1 and 2 who staged a ‘dharna’ for public cause and voluntarily submitted themselves for arrest and who had no tendency to escape had been subjected to humiliation by being hand-cuffed which act of the escort party is against all norms of decency and which is in utter violation of the principle underlying Article 21 of the Constitution of India. We strongly condemn this kind of conduct of the escort party arbitrarily and unreasonably humiliating the citizens of the country with obvious motive of pleasing ‘someone’”.


Categories: Criminal